American Splendor Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ August 12, 2010
Harvey Pekar is the only person who could have a bio-pic like this. Melding together documentary filmmaking and narrative filmmaking, the director team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini bring Pekar to life, but also engaged Pekar. Through interviews with him and his wife, Joyce, we learn about the reality of his scourges, how he's still working for the same company, how much he loves his friends, his family, how he was treated by the Letterman show, and how he feels about comics, life, and love. Pekar is fascinating, while also being mundane, and that's also the rarity and greatness of "American Splendor" as a comic. Giamatti gives a top notch performance as the formidable curmudgeon, and Hope Davis is equally interesting as his anachronistic wife. This film has the right style, perspective, and humor, when dealing with the real life of one of America's best and most underappreciated graphic novel authors. It may not be for everyone's taste, because it is highly stylized, but it seems to fit with the less than glamorous life of Pekar, and that's only fitting.
Super Reviewer
½ March 3, 2012
'American Splendor'. What a brilliantly ambitious film, with its merging of documentary and adapted comic screenplay! Surely up there with the best comic book to film adaptations of all time.

Harvey Pekar is a wonderfully rich character, and I kept watching it thinking of him as a blend of Art Spiegelman and Larry David; Paul Giamatti is perfectly cast.
paul o.
Super Reviewer
February 11, 2012
Its awesome, fun, and charming. Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff. This film exploits that and creates a truly original film.
Super Reviewer
½ November 28, 2011
Real Harvey: If you think reading comics about your life seems strange, try watching a play about it. God only knows how I'll feel when I see this movie. 

"Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff."

American Splendor is a very inventive and original biography. The movie jumps through time with its character, Harvey Peckar, a struggling comic writer who has an everyday job as well. He decides to start writing his own comics about everyday life and what he encounters in the world and then he has friends do the illustrations for him. He gets famous, he gets on Letterman, but it isn't something that is going to make him rich. 

The movie is narrated by the real Harvey Peckar and we are shown glimpses of him being interviewed. The man reminds me of a Woody Allen character, and if Allen was a comic book writer, the two would pretty much be the same. The film gets a little overly artsy at times, but I still managed to really like its creativity. I love independent films like this one that really think outside the box.

Obviously the movie is going to be well acted when Paul Giammati is in the lead role. He makes Peckar his own and gives a great performance. Giammati has a knack for roles like this and he never disappoints.

I've never read a Peckar comic, but this movie definitely has gotten me interested in his work. American Splendor is a really good biography and a breath of fresh air when it comes to watching all of the typical biographies that come out all the time.
Super Reviewer
November 16, 2010
I am a great fan of Harvey Pekar and was excited when I first sat down to watch this hand made bio-pic of the legendary comic book character. I think the casting could have been stronger, but aside from that the construction of this film is of the highest quality. As one of the most cynical and down on his luck characters in the history of book or film, seeing Pekar alives and on screen represented in full working colour, instead of scrawled on the pages of American Splendor by many a different hand, this movie gave all Splendor fans what they had been waiting for and in all honesty delivered nicely.
Super Reviewer
½ April 30, 2011
American Splendor is like early age hipster or something - it's totally meaningless and self indulgent, nihilistic, and depressing to boot.
Super Reviewer
April 15, 2007
A funny and unique little independent with AMAZING performances from Giamatti and Friedlander. Both actors just disappear into their respective rolls.
Super Reviewer
January 8, 2009
It's time the world took Paul Giamatti seriously. Girls, Ladies, Gay Men - he's more than just eye-candy. The guy's got talent.
Super Reviewer
½ March 10, 2010
"Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff."

An original mix of fiction and reality illuminates the life of comic book hero everyman Harvey Pekar.

Excellent comedy/drama/autobiography/comic-book adaptation/documentary of disgruntled Cleveland based Harvey Pekar (Giamatti in an uncanny Oscar caliber turn), a curmudgeonly comic book artist who incorporates his loser existence as a low-level file clerk of a Veterans Hospital gains pop culture/underground hero status after his semi-autobiographical creation 'Ameican Splendor' takes off with some critical acclaim and cult status. The film follows his gradual climb into the quasi-mainstream with his friendship with celebrated cartoonist Robert Crumb (equally uncanny Urbaniak), his unlikely spouse Joyce Brabner (Davis equally fine in a barely recognizable turn deglammed not unlike Cameron Diaz in 'Being John Malkovich') and his frequent guest spots on 'Late Night with David Letterman' cementing his reputation as an unsavory cranky Everyman. Wisely filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini allow the fourth wall to be broken down and let the real-life subjects address their narration as well as the proceedings at hand with their motley assortment of friends and co-workers. Giamatti's frequent furrowed brow/scowl, gravelly voice and question mark posture also miraculously shows the less nasty side of Pekar to escape during his bout with cancer and acceptance of family values.
Super Reviewer
February 18, 2010
If you likecomics, irony and regular life's for you.
Super Reviewer
December 24, 2007
Love this movie.
Super Reviewer
½ September 15, 2009
Probably the best comic adaptation made so far. It made people take Giamatti a little more seriously too which helped his career no end. A great film!
Super Reviewer
½ November 2, 2007
A touching, original look on an everyday man who started an extremely successful comic book series based completely on his mundane life. Giamatti is outstanding, with Davis matching him yard for yard as his wife. Some people won't find this movie interesting because it is really about a loser, but there are some that will find brilliance in how the story is told. The running commentary by the real Harvey Pekar (who Giamatti portrays) is a stroke of genius.
Super Reviewer
August 20, 2007
Nicely underplayed biopic of 'one of life's losers done good' . A successful early role for Giamatti who displays the appropriate brooding cynicism. Real people and comic animations are blended effectively into the narrative. Good to see such an unusual character given the biopic treatment.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
April 24, 2009
American Splendor is the biography of Cleveland underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar as played by Paul Giamatti. Pekar leads a strikingly lonely existence, working his job as a file clerk and collecting old records in his spare time. In the 1970s, he forms a friendship with Robert Crumb, and soon the two are collaborating on what is basically an autobiographical comic book. Harvey becomes a minor celebrity, finds love with a fan, and makes several memorable appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman". All this is done in a fairly entertaining fashion, and while Harvey and friends are all eccentric, they're also intelligent, and it's unfair to write them off as misfit losers when they actually have something worthwhile to say. Harvey is a complex character (and I assume, person), he seems to be eternally pessimistic and yet there's a great need for potential love. And yet he's willing to hold a mirror up to himself and make his worst characteristics known to the world (through his comics). It's not easy getting to the root of Harvey Pekar. Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis do a great job portraying these people. It'd be easy to do caricatures, all mannerisms and no substance, but these people are made real here. It's not always enjoyable spending time with this group, but getting to know them is worthwhile. As his friend uber-nerd Toby Radloff proclaims while professing his love for the movie "Revenge of the Nerds", the nerds triumph in the end.
Super Reviewer
½ February 11, 2007
American Splendor is its main character, Harvey Pekar. It's clever and innovative, sure, but it's also a dour asshole and it's up to the viewer to decide if it's something worth knowing. I would never choose to associate with someone like Pekar in the course of my lifetime. He represents the absolute nadir of the "self-absorbed, abrasive artist" archetype, and watching this supposed everyman bitch and whine his way through his entire life is not exactly appealing to me.

There are some minor chuckles to be had here, but I took nothing away from the movie except a vague feeling of frustration. I didn't learn about the plight of an anti-social artist; those processes were not deepened or illuminated any way. All I did see was a trapped, angry man who thoughtlessly burned all his bridges for no real reason, except just to be a contrary grump. Paul Giamatti is great here, and successfully add a dash of leavening anguish to the movie's general atmosphere of chained-up rage once the cancer plot rolls around.

If there's one sensation I don't like to feel when I'm watching a film, it's frustration. If you're frustrated FOR a character, that's fine; it means that the film is most likely doing its job. If you're frustrated BECAUSE of a character, it's either because that character is meant to or because they're just irritating. Harvey Pekar is presented here as an contrarian, sure, and I'm sure American Splendor doesn't mean to venerate his actions or artificially warm him to the audience. I don't think the film gave me enough to let me develop a positive opinion of him, in the end. It's good that it's trusting enough of a viewer's critical thought to not force him down our throat, but I still consider American Splendor a failure. It is 100 minutes of a man I never want to meet again.
Super Reviewer
June 12, 2008
Paul Giamatti is brilliant and Harvey Pekar is actually allowed to be himself as he narrates this movie about his life that's part-documantary and part film with comic book elements scattered throughout. It's long and a bit drawn out, but if you like this kind of thing then you'll find the film extremely worthwhile. If not, then don't set the remote down too far away.
Super Reviewer
½ August 30, 2008
The last third of this film is a real stunner. Unfortunately it takes that long to really become immersed in the film. Pekar is hardly a fun and exciting or even sympathetic/empathetic character. He is loud, angry and often annoying. By the end though I warmed to him somewhat and could enjoy the film a lot more. The film is never laugh out loud hilarious, though it has the same kind of monotonous observations we ourselves make. The inclusion of the real life variants of certain chaarcters goes a long way, but for me Pekar was a lot more effective than Giamatti and the sudden jumps of actual footage to reconstructed events was jarring. Still some excellent decisions and narrative techniques make this a real original spin on a "life story" type film.
Super Reviewer
November 3, 2007
I want to be Harvey Pekar.
Super Reviewer
June 21, 2007
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